Consumer behavior and the decision-making process .

Knowing the customers’ purchasing behavior as closely as possible and understanding the underlying reasons for their purchases is one of the most important objectives all marketers work on achieving. Because this would make it possible to orient consumer purchases in the direction desired by the company. 
The study of consumer behavior therefore aims to help the marketing manager make the right decisions in terms of operational marketing. 
To understand the customer’s behavior it is crucial to go through the consumer decision-making process and the different variables that have an influence on it.
Many models have been attempted to schematize the purchasing behavior of the consumer.  The following model tries to synthesize them.

  I – The consumer’s decision-making process:
The consumer’s decision-making process is generally represented in the form of a sequence of five phases: recognition of the need, search for information, evaluation of options, decision making and post-purchase evaluation. 
1- Recognition of the need:
The initiation of the decision-making process is the recognition of a need by the consumer.  The latter can be the result of endogenous or exogenous stimuli.  Endogenous stimuli come from the consumer himself, from his internal state.  Exogenous stimuli come from the environment of the consumer.

2- Information research: Depending on the complexity of the planned purchase, information research is necessary or not.  When the purchase is considered important, many sources of information, internal or external can be used:
.Memory is the primary source of information mobilized by the consumer. 
.The relational network likely to provide useful information (family, friends, friends of friends …). 
.Sources of commercial information (advertising, prospectuses, commercial websites, etc.)
.Independent public information (public bodies, comparative websites, consumer magazines).
.Experience is ultimately one of the sources of information used (product testing, observations).

3- Evaluation of options
The various information collected in the research phase supports the consumer’s judgment.  He evaluates the different options through their attributes.  His personal preferences serve as filters to choose the products or services that best meet his expectations.

4- The decision-making of purchase:
Once the phase of evaluation is carried out, the consumer is, in principle, in the situation of purchasing a product which he classified in head of all the other options.  He can thus declare a purchase intention.  However, the transition from intention to implementation is not certain.  Several factors can interfere: An unfavorable outside intervention can change your mind.  The purchasing context can change (a new competitor can appear, for example).  The perceived level of risk may cause the consumer to postpone the purchase. 

5- Post-purchase evaluation:
Following the purchase, then the consumption of a product, the consumer feels satisfaction or dissatisfaction.  That is, the consumer will compare the perceived performance of the product to his level of initial wait.  If the expectations are met, he will be satisfied, if the performance is below his expectations, he will be dissatisfied.

II– Variables influencing the decision-making process :
1- Individual variables: Every individual has a certain number of objective and subjective characteristics which will lead a consumer to make his purchasing decisions. 
a – Sociodemographic characteristics:
must be carefully studied by companies, as they relate, in particular, to the customer’s information processing capacities which directly influence his choices.  Among all the socio-demographic characteristics, four variables stand out in particular:
. The age of the consumer: this variable influences the behavior of the buyer.  The older the consumer, the more experience he accumulates with the product, the less information he needs to select brands.  and the more it forms stable preferences. 
. The buyer’s education level: is also the subject of a certain consensus, it reflects the individual’s ability to process information.  The more educated buyers with more experience in dealing with abstract information. 
. The family situation: married or single and the number of children can play a role in the preferences of buyers.
. Profession and socio-professional category (CSP) influence purchasing behavior due to the expertise associated with certain trades and the supposedly higher information processing capacities.

b – Resources:
Two types of resources influence consumers:
– Financial resources allow us to better understand purchasing behavior.  Temporal resources, in other words the time available to the individual to consume, also play a large role in the purchasing behavior of the consumer.
c – Psychographic variables:
Include personality, lifestyle and values.  These three variables influence purchasing behavior. 

2 – Environmental variables:
Each individual has distinctive personal characteristics.  He is influenced by the environment in which he lives (his social class and his family) and by the people around him (social groups…) :
a – Culture:
In general, the cultural environment brings together all the social norms, values and statements accepted by all.  The culture of a society, divided into subcultures, appears as well in the customer’s behavior.

b – Social class:
A social class represents a stratum in the  society, bringing together more or less homogeneous individuals, who recognize the same values, lifestyles or behaviors.

c – The family:
The family undoubtedly influences consumer behavior.  It is indeed a privileged environment of exchange, an environment of socialization and a cell in which each individual influences and get influenced by others. 

d – Social groups:
An individual is part of several social groups which influence his behavior.  There are generally two types of groups: Primary groups are those that the individual frequents the most (family, friends and neighbors).  Secondary groups are those that the individual frequents less regularly (associations, sports clubs, professional relations).

Although it is also utopian in that there are almost as many different behaviors as there are customers, but this analysis is still indispensable for marketers because it provides them with important information to help them form an idea about the potential clients they are trying to reach.

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